Sexting is defined as the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photos electronically, primarily between mobile phones. The word is a combination of the words sex + texting.
In the US, teenagers who use their cell phones to send or receive sexually suggestive pictures could find themselves facing charges of producing, possessing, and/or distributing child pornography. They may have to serve prison time and be registered as a sex offender if caught sexting.
Kids don’t have the mature adult judgment to think about what might happen after the fact. When they share a personal photo they have no idea that the person on the other end of the phone may send it on to other people or use it to harm them if the relationship ends.
There are many reasons why teens sext. They may be pressured by friends or they may be trying to impress a potential boy or girlfriend – either in response to a sexual text message they’ve received or even willingly. It’s important to understand that no matter how technically savvy kids are, they often don’t think about the implications of how quickly any information they send can spread and end up in places they least expect (on someone’s Facebook profile, for example).
In the US, youth who sext may face charges of producing, possessing, and/or distributing child pornography. But there are many other consequences besides the legal ones. Kids who send nude images of themselves may become targets of mean comments, rumors, and harassment and face other social difficulties.
In addition, the image may follow them forever, damaging academic, social, and employment prospects. Sexting may also have emotional and psychological ramifications. When an image is forwarded without the sender’s consent, trust is broken. Once an image is spread via cell phone or posted online, it is impossible to get back and can potentially circulate forever; these pictures can even find their way into the hands of those individuals who prey on children and collect child pornography. This kind of exploitation can be psychologically devastating.
First and foremost – make sure they stop immediately. Explain that they may be charged with producing and distributing child pornography. Also explain that once an image leaves their possession there is no telling where it will end up – other kids may see it, someone may upload it to the internet, their parents may see it and a few years down the line even a future employer may stumble upon it.
If your kids receive a nude picture on their mobile phone, make sure they save the message, and above all they should avoid forwarding the message on to others. This may result in their being be charged with distributing child pornography, they may face criminal charges and have to register as sex offenders!.
It may also be a good idea to contact the parents of the other kids that are involved – in order to keep everyone out of trouble.
Although the consequences may be similar, sexting and cyberbullying are quite different. The main difference between cyberbullying and sexting has to do with intent. While cyberbullying involves the sending or posting of damaging or cruel text or images, usually aimed at hurting the receiver, sexting is often innocent. The motivation behind the sending of a nude or sexually suggestive image could be simply be a teen trying to impress a potential boy or girlfriend, or maybe submitting to peer pressure. A teen will often willingly send out a nude image of her not pausing to think that that image may be forwarded on by the receiver to his friends, school mates or may even be published on the Internet in general or specifically on the very popular social networks.